Wouldn't it be great if one of the cheftestants completely blew their chance at winning, perhaps forgetting to put the lid on a blender, burning an entire pot of cous cous, even simply running out of time in an elimination challenge? We're not even asking for a severed digit or a hospital visit, for pete's sake. If that still sounds a bit ill-willed, face it, we shouldn't have to ask in the first place.
These chefs are just so good. It's like watching Top Chef Masters. With one episode remaining, this might be the most professional, least flawed season in Top Chef history, to the viewers' dismay.
Last nights challenge in which chefs cooked in an Olympic-style competition at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia (is this still Top Chef Texas?) was again full of wonderful dishes like Lindsay's seared salmon over creamy red quinoa with chorizo and horseradish vinagrette. The episode lacked any horrific fiascos, to the surprise of no one. Chefs were even nice towards Beverly, who returned last week after winning Last Chance Kitchen. Ed's seething comments and fiery wit were sorely missed.
Perhaps it was the altitude mixed with the intensity that mellowed them out. It's tough to underestimate the importance of the prize: making it to the final competition, airing next Wednesday, and earning $10,000 for each of three challenges in last night's elimination series.
In last night's episode, chefs went from cooking in a gondola, dealing with motion and height, swaying and shaking, to a second round which required chipping ingredients from massive blocks of ice, to round three when chefs had to ski to a shooting range, shoot bulls-eyes for ingredients and cook their "prey."
At the conclusion of each round, the judges sounded like broken records as they repeated some variation of, "Gee whiz, y'all are making this really hard on us. It's so tasty it's practically a tie." This isn't a pee-wee soccer tournament! While we wholeheartedly wish for more higher highs and lower lows, every week, someone must pack their knives and leave. And the suspenseful moment of genuinely not knowing who will leave, though it doesn't leave us yelling at our TV, is quite exhilarating, we admit. But every now and then, someone's due for a hearty screw-up. Maybe next week will be the week. Probably not.
And now, the highlights:
Best Soliloquy on Beverly: Sarah Every week someone waxes poetic about Beverly. She's selfish or air-headed, under-estimated or overrated. "Beverly has already been eliminated once. She has nothing to lose at this point. Now Beverly is ready; she's focused; she is that silent horse. She wants to be meek and timid, and people don't see her, and then she likes to attack like a tiger." What Sarah didn't know at that point was that Bev would quickly become the one to beat.
Most Violent Display of Pantry-Raiding: Beverly's ice-crushing For the second round of competition, ingredients were embedded in blocks of ice. Yes. That. Sucks. Most chefs managed to keep some semblance of grace as they chizzled away, but Bev went bat-shit crazy to the point that Paul warned her not to unintentionally stab herself. After hip-checking Paul as they both scrambled towards the crab (Paul won), she wailed at the ice with a pick, putting the full force of her body behind each movement. When that didn't work, she kept smacking it with a pot as though that would be effective. Finally Paul, ever the gent, helped both her and Sarah, throwing ice blocks at ice blocks to get them to crack.
Most Delicious Dish of the Episode: Paul's ice block crab creation. It's fresh and beautiful with an inviting warmth. It's king crab poached in brown butter with toasted almonds, mango chutney, orange marmalade. And it landed Paul a spot in the final episode, joining Lindsay, who won the first round, and leaving Beverly and Sarah to compete head-to-head in round three.
Best not-at-all-shitty shit talk: Beverly and Sarah After weeks of Sarah treating Beverly like an incompetent baby, it seems they've leveled out with a healthy respect and competitive edge.
Beverly: "I've been bullied a lot and underestimated throughout this entire competition so it feels right to go against Sarah to see who deserves to be in the final three." Sarah: "If Beverly moves forward instead of me, that would suck. I would never forgive myself if that were to happen." [Dun, dun, dunnn ... read on.]
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Most Improved: Beverly She might be the most complex character on the episode, and she's gradually transitioned from a meek flower with a few screws that might be loose to a total badass with a couple screws that are definitely loose. Paul said it best: "The most surprising thing to me about Beverly is how tough she is. She's fierce, she wont go down."
Closest match-up of the season at judges' table: Sarah and Beverly One went surf, the other turf. The judges had to choose between Beverly's slow-roasted arctic char with red wine and beet compote and celery root puree or Sarah's braised rabbit leg in red wine with cherries, hazelnuts and kraut puree. In the end, Beverly's arctic char, overpowered by the rest of the ingredients, sent her home.
Most Emotional Judge: Padma From her pursed lips and welling tears, it appeared that Padma had been rooting for the underdog. Or perhaps she was heartened by the camaraderie between Beverly and Sarah who were both class-acts throughout the episode. Feelings rushed through her pretty little head, and came forth in tears and winces as emotions took hold when she told Beverly to "pack her knives". We felt sad for Beverly, but also for Padma.
Next week: This is it. Someone takes home the title of Top Chef. Place your bets. [UPDATE: We lied. That doesn't happen until 2/29.]